Skip to main content

Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

See other formats

WI3QUAM  VON  HUMBOUDT                     289
for Humboldt hated smoking. The dress-coat
itself was very simple, but he returned to the clouds
of smoke in a coat which " a respectable barber of the
present day would despise/' This is characteristic
of a period in which so much intellectual food was
afforded and enjoyed, that other matters were of no
moment, and the mental worth weighed more than
the exterior appearance.
Schiller returned to Jena in May, 1794, and hence-
forward the most intimate friendship connected the
two families through life, especially as the two ladies
found in each other old and dear friends. Humboldt
had taken a house on the market-place, immediately
opposite Schiller's house. " We met twice daily/* he
says, " were principally alone in the evening, and
generally together till late at night." They spent
these hours in philosophical and sesthetical conversa-
tions, of whose extent and importance we can now
form some idea from the correspondence of the two
men. By these conversations Schiller formed him-
self for his intimacy with Goethe, which was soon
afterwards to commence.
What a loss for society that an Eckermann was not
present, who could have reported these conversations
to us 1 How the little we know of it makes us long
for a more detailed account! A friend of Humboldt's,
TVTLliam von Burgsdorf, wrote to Rabel from Jena at
this time: "Humboldt goesm to Schillerjs regularly
every evening from eight until after ten o'clock. The
second evening of my stay here I went with him,
and always since then. I am delighted to see Schiller
thus. He lives only in Ms ideas, in constant mental
activity; thinking and poetising is his only want,
and he esteems everything else only in so far as it
conduces to this, his real life. Humboldt, therefore,
is very much to him : he considers these hours as Ms
hours of recreation, but only in his <3wn way. I
speak little, but not too little, and if the conversation
becomes too abstract for me I play with the bricks ;
in short, everytMng here has fortunately an entirely